Domesday Book

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Page of the Domesday Book

The Domesday Book [ ˈduːmzdeɪ ˌbʊk ], English "Book of the Day of Judgment ", originally King's Roll or Winchester Roll , is a land register of England that records the results of nationwide investigations in the 11th century in Latin . The book's unusual name became common in the century after the survey. He was referring to the fact that the real estate relationships recorded in the Domesday Book were considered legally "final".

Historical background

Threatened by an invasion, King William I (the Conqueror) ordered at Christmas 1085 that his own and taxable property of his subjects be systematically recorded. From January 1086, his emissaries combed the country as planned and determined not only the properties and their owners, but also the number of male residents. Domesday here has the meaning of final , i.e. H. later the ownership stipulated in the Domesday Book should no longer be contestable.

The background to the measure was the property structure in England that had grown over centuries, which was largely based on customary law : peasants and nobles had land and rights that were not documented in writing, as only a few people could read and write, and through gifts, sales and inheritance etc. the lands were severely fragmented. Thus, prior to the Domesday Book, the Norman conquerors had no reliable information that could serve as a basis for calculating expected tax revenues. Since Wilhelm almost constantly waged war against internal and external enemies, he was dependent on being able to reliably estimate the expected tax revenues and the number of the population conscripted. The creation of the book marked the first census in England and an important step on the way to centralizing power away from the local nobles and towards the royal court.

The book, which was written in two volumes, was not continued after 1090, but it presents the circumstances of the period considered in great detail. From then on, any legitimation of land ownership arose from this register, which can still be used today. Since Wilhelm II of England , the distribution of the army load according to so-called knightly fiefs and the precise formation of burdens and legal relationships of the English feudal system have been regulated with the help of the Domesday Book . The English Exchequer , based on the Domesday Book, was created in just 50 years . Despite verifiable gaps, the work gives indications of the country's population at that time, which must have been around 2 million.

The Domesday Book is kept in The National Archives in Kew (London) . It was officially printed in 1783 in two folio volumes with supplements. Better separate prints have appeared from individual counties since 1862. The last complete edition is the CD-ROM "Domesday Explorer, Version 1.0" from 2000.

Norman feudal lords

Half of the land that was given as a secular fiefdom under William the Conqueror in England belonged to only eleven men, who were also almost all of William's blood relatives:

  1. Odo von Bayeux († 1097), Bishop of Bayeux , Earl of Kent and Regent of England together with Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, a half-brother of Wilhelm (they had the same mother) ( House Conteville )
  2. Robert von Mortain († 1090), Count von Mortain , Earl of Cornwall , brother Odos and thus also a half-brother of Wilhelm ( House Conteville ).
  3. William FitzOsbern , Earl of Hereford and Regent of England together with Odo von Bayeux, a great-nephew of Gunnora, Wilhelm's great-grandmother (see FitzOsbern )
  4. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury († 1094), also a great-nephew of Gunnora ( House of Montgommery )
  5. William de Warenne († 1088), Earl of Surrey , another great-nephew of Gunnora ( House of Warenne )
  6. Hugh d'Avranches Earl of Chester († 1101), the son of Viscount Richard of Avranches and nephew of Odo and Robert and thus also Wilhelms ( House Conteville )
  7. Eustach III. Count of Boulogne († 1125), brother of Godfrey of Bouillon ( House of Boulogne )
  8. Alain the Red Earl of Richmond († 1089) ( House of Rennes )
  9. Richard FitzGilbert , Lord of Clare , the son of Gilbert de Brionne († 1090) from the Wilhelms family ( Rolloniden and Clare )
  10. Geoffroy de Montbray († 1093), Bishop of Coutances
  11. Geoffrey de Mandeville († around 1100), constable of the Tower of London ( Mandeville )

Some passages from the Domesday Book

  • Anyone who broke the royal peace , committed robbery or burglary was declared outlawed. But he could also pay the sheriff 100 shillings as a release and was spared.
  • The shedding of blood cost 40 shillings.
  • If the sheriff wanted to go to Wales, he could recruit citizens. You could only buy yourself out by paying 40 shillings.
  • A widow who took a husband had to pay 20 shillings to the king. For virgins it was 10 shillings.
  • If a house burned down as a result of an accident, carelessness or mishap, 40 shillings were payable to the king. The two closest neighbors received 2 shillings each.
  • If a citizen who was in the service of the king died, a ransom of 10 shillings had to be paid for him.
  • If the king was in the city, twelve high-ranking city residents had to take over his protection.
  • If he went hunting, citizens had to protect him with horses and weapons.


Web links

Commons : Domesday Book  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Discover Domesday . The National Archives . Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  2. ^ Survey and making of Domesday . The National Archives. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  3. John Palmer (editor) u. a., Chichester 2000, ISBN 1-86077-163-7 .